George Henry Berry was born on the 1st July 1887 and baptised on the 27th July 1887 at Hertford.
His father, also George Berry a Gas Stoker, married his mother, Emma Bunyan, on the 11th April 1886 at All Saints Church, Hertford. They had four children one of whom sadly died before the 1911 census.
- George Henry.
- Dorothy Georgina born in 1892 at Hertford died in 1901 at Welwyn.
- John William born in 1897 at Hertford. Served as PS 173 in Herts Constabulary 1919 to 1950.
- Alice Sarah born in 1900 at Welwyn.
During the 1891 census the family were living at 17, The Folly, St John, Hertford. By the time of the 1901 census they had moved and were living at 2, Gasworks Cottages, Welwyn. They were still there in 1911 but George had left home and was working as a chauffeur and boarding with the Edwards family at 10, Gayfere Street, Westminster, Middlesex.
Little more is known about George’s life over the next two years until he joined the Hertford County Constabulary.
George’s Police Service Record has not survived but from other sources we know he was Appointed on the 1st December 1913 as Constable 303 on £1/4/6 per week and commenced his Probationer training at Police Headquarters at Hatfield.
At the end of his training he would have been Attested and taken on to the Roster and he was then posted to A Division at Hoddesdon.
Published on the 12th December 1914 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: At Hoddesdon, early on Friday morning, Police Constable Berry, when on his beat, was passing Doctor S. H. Appleford’s residence in West Hill when he noticed a dull red light in the kitchen. On closer inspection he found that the kitchen ceiling was smouldering. He at once gave the alarm and, immediately afterwards, the Fire Brigade had been informed and were promptly en route for the fire. In the meantime, Constable Berry, with the assistance of Dr Appleford, rendered yeoman service, and when the Brigade arrived, they had already got the fire well under control. The firemen very quickly put it out before it had a chance to spread. But for the alert and keen observation of Constable Berry, and his promptness with the doctor, afterwards followed by the quick and valuable assistance of the Brigade, the fire would undoubtedly have burst out into flames and spread to the other parts of the house, and there would have been a big conflagration. It is supposed that the fire originated in the workroom over the kitchen. The kitchen ceiling was burnt through and considerable damage, chiefly through smoke and water, was done to the workroom and the kitchen. Two valuable parrots were suffocated. The damage was estimated at £100.
Theft Of Lead.
(Abridged) Published on the 20th March 1915 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: At Ware Petty Sessions, William Cheek (36), a plumber, was charged with stealing 96 lbs of old lead from Haileybury College. Inspector Moles said that on February 26, at 6 p.m., in company with PC Berry, he went to 13 Hertford Road, Hoddesdon where the defendant lived. He saw the defendant and said to him, “I am making inquiries about a quantity of lead and other metal alleged to have been stolen from Haileybury College, and I understand that you have a quantity of old lead on your premises.” The Defendant replied, “Yes, there it is,” at the same time pointing to a sack (produced) which stood outside the back door. The witness went to the sack and asked the defendant where he got it from. He replied, “From Haileybury College. I have had it now for some weeks. It was lying under my bench, so I brought it home. I suppose there will be trouble about it, I didn’t think there was any harm in it. It was the first I have had.” The witness took possession of the lead and found it weighed 96lbs.
Charles Hodge, clerk of the works at Haileybury College, said that on March 11th he went to Hoddesdon Police Station and saw the lead, which he said was worth about 14s. There were also two chandelier weights, which were similar to some they had had at the College. The lead produced would in ordinary course be put on the scrap heap and sold, and no one had any right to take it away. The defendant was employed regularly at the College. The defendant said he had been there for nine and a half years. He asked if there had ever been any complaints against him in the past, although he had to go into the masters’ rooms and fill positions of trust. The witness said he had never found anything against the defendant.
The defendant elected to be dealt with summarily, and said he admitted that he took the lead from the College, but he had no felonious intent. He had been employed there for nine and a half years and he should not think of stealing anything from there. He told Inspector Moles that he took it. It had been lying quite open for a month or five weeks. The lead came into his possession when the people who built the big school at Haileybury had left the building. The foreman of works gave the order to go and clear up what was left. There was a lot of scraps of lead lying about, which he picked up and put into a bag and placed them nearby the bench in his shop. When he was clearing his shop out after the Christmas holidays, he sent the bag of lead home. He did not think he was stealing it, and it was in his yard four or five weeks but not in any way concealed.
Supt. Handley questioned Cheek about a number of different items that had been taken all of which Cheek admitted to taking. The Rev. T. Wahon, curate of Hoddesdon gave a strong character reference for Cheek. Mr. Ernest Anson, bursar at Haileybury College also spoke up for him. The Master of Haileybury, who was unable to attend court that day, also had a very favourable opinion of Cheek. Although such an act as Cheek had been accused of would not be allowed to pass unnoticed, and they could not keep an employee who was found guilty of such an offence on the staff, they had a strong wish that the man should not be punished twice by the College and the Bench also.
Supt. Handley said the whole of the facts of the case had been placed before the Chief Constable, who came to the conclusion that it should come before the Bench. After consultation in private, the Chairman said the Magistrates had given the case very careful consideration, and they felt that under the circumstances which had come before the Court the defendant must be convicted of stealing the lead. The Police could not have done anything else but take up the case, and they had done perfectly right. At the same time the Court had considered the defendant’s good character and the fact that there was nothing else against him, also that he had the severe punishment of losing his situation at the College. They would bind him over under the First Offender’s Act to come up for judgment if called upon within 12 months.
Asleep In His Cart!
Published on the 14th August 1915 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: At Cheshunt Petty Sessions George Everitt (33), of Roydon, hay carter, was summoned for riding asleep on a cart at Hoddesdon on July 19. He pleaded guilty. PC Berry proved finding the defendant asleep in the bottom of a hay cart. The defendant said he was sorry, but it was impossible to keep awake when he had to journey to London every night. Fined 3s. or 5 days.
Scrumping Leads To An Assault.
Published on the 28th August 1915 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: At Cheshunt Petty Sessions Charles Cockman (18) and Herbert Howard (9), of Rye Park, were charged with stealing apples value 3d., the property of William Herbert Cutler, on July 28. Cockman was also charged with assaulting Nancy Maud Cutler. The defendants pleaded guilty. Nancy Maud Cutler said that on the evening of July 28 she went to her father’s kitchen garden, where she saw the two boys picking apples, which they put in their pockets. The witness ran and caught Howard, and then Cockman came up, took a stick away from Howard, and hit the witness on the face. PC Berry said that when he saw Nancy Cutler she had two marks on the side of her face. Both boys said they were sorry. An official from Edmonton Union said that arrangements had been made by the Guardians for Cockman to go onto a training ship. He had been a boarded out boy from the Union. The Chairman, “And you can take him away again. We shall be glad to be rid of him.” Howard’s mother said she could do nothing with her boy. He had been birched once before, but it had no effect. The Bench handed Cockman over to the Guardian’s official, and fined Howard 2s. 6d., the Chairman remarking that that he was sorry he had not the power to have Howard birched.
(Abridged) Published on the 4th December 1915 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: At Cheshunt Petty Sessions on Wednesday, Thomas Pryor, of Amwell Street, Hoddesdon was summoned for driving a horse and cart without a light at Hoddesdon on November 16. The defendant pleaded guilty. PC Berry stated the facts and added that when told he would be summoned, he said, “I am very pleased. I have enough money to pay.” A large number of convictions were proved against the defendant, who was fined 21s.
General Order 187 of the 6th December 1915 instructed George that he would be transferred from A Division at Hoddesdon to C Division at Watford from the 9th December 1915.
General Order 189 of the 8th December 1915 informed George that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/5/8 to £1/6/10 per week from the 1st December 1915.
General Order 124 of 18th November 1916 was a list of 16 Constables, including George, who had signified their desire to sit for examination for promotion from Second Class to First Class Constable. The necessary examination papers were prepared and forwarded to the Superintendents concerned. The examination was held in accordance with the rules laid down in Order 192/1915.
General Order 137 of 21st December 1916 announced the result of the Examination for Promotion from Second Class to First Class Constable. Five officers, including George, did not qualify.
General Order 47 of the 14th June 1917 was a list of 16 Constables, including George, who had again signified his desire to sit the examination for promotion from Second Class to First Class Constable. The necessary examination papers were prepared and forwarded to the Superintendents concerned. The examination was held in accordance with the rules laid down in Order 192/1915.
General Order 68 of the 6th August 1917 announced the result of the Examination for Promotion from Second Class to First Class Constable. George was one of those that qualified having taken the exam on the 22nd June 1917 in the office of his Superintendent.
General Order 1 of the 1st January 1918 informed George that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/7/5 to £1/8/0 per week from the 1st December 1917.
Army Service During The War.
George’s Army Service Record has survived and from this we know the following: George enlisted on the 10th December 1915 at Watford and on the 11th December 1915, he was transferred to Section B Army Reserve and returned to his Police duties. This was part of what was known as the Derby Scheme. Thousands of men around the country including dozens of Hertfordshire Police Officers enlisted under the scheme. The Hertfordshire Officers mainly enlisted between the 9th and the 11th December 1915. Every Section B Reservist was issued with an individually numbered Khaki Armlet with a red Crown displayed on it which was to be worn on the upper left arm to demonstrate they were a Reservist and were waiting to be mobilised.
The following was recorded: He gave his address as 14, Oxford Street, Watford, his age as 28 years 6 months and his trade as Police Constable. He said he was not married and had never served in the Military before.
His description on enlistment was recorded as: Apparent age: 28 years 6 months. Height: 5 feet 11 inches. Chest: 39 inches 3 inch expansion. Distinctive marks: 4 vaccination marks left arm. He gave his next of kin as his father George Berry, The Hill, Welwyn.
His Medical History Army Form B178 recorded that he was examined at Watford on the 9th April 1918 and it noted the same information as his description on enlisting with the addition that he said he was born at Hertford, his weight was 157 lbs., his hair brown, complexion fair, eyes blue, his physical development good and that he had an additional identifying mark of a burn scar on his right knee.
On the 23rd April 1918 George was one of fifteen Hertford County Constabulary Police Constables who were Mobilised at the same time. Five joined the Coldstream Guards and ten, including George as Guardsman 32202, joined the 13th Company 1st (Provisional) Battalion, Grenadier Guards. They were given consecutive Army Service numbers. The others were 32193 William Sturman, 32194 Charles Spencer, 32195 Horace Human, 32196 James Childs, 32197 Frederick Futter, 32198 George Reed, 32199 Thomas Abrathat, 32200 George Cooling and 32201 Leonard Wackett. Other than perhaps their initial training there is no evidence to show that they served together.
General Order 98 of the 12th October 1918 was entitled The Police Reservists (Allowances) Act 1914 and stated: Reference Order 85/1917 and previous Orders upon the same subject. At a meeting of the Standing Joint Committee held on 11th October 1918, a dependents allowance of 8/- per week was granted to Mrs. Emma Berry, the mother of ex PC G.H. Berry of the C or Watford Division, who enlisted in H.M. Army on 16th April 1918. The allowance will commence as from date of enlistment, i.e. 16th April 1918, and the first payment will be included in the C Division paysheet for week ending 23rd October 1918.
The end of the war arrived before George could be posted overseas and consequently, he did not receive any medals. On the 9th February 1919 he was transferred to the Army Reserve. On the 31st March 1920 he received his final discharge.
His Statement as to Disability Army Form Z22 recorded: Unit: Grenadier Guards. Regiment: 1st Provisional Battalion. Regt. No.: 32202. Rank: Guardsman. Name: George Henry Berry. Address: Gas Works Cottage, Welwyn Hill, Welwyn, Herts. Age last birthday: 31. First joined for duty: 16th April 1918 at Hertford. Medical category: A1. I do not claim to be suffering from a disability due to my Military Service, signed George H. Berry. Examined: Aldershot 6th January 1918.
George submitted an entry to the National Roll of the Great War which reads: Berry G.H., Private, Grenadier Guards. He joined in January 1918, and after his training served at various stations on important duties with his unit. He rendered valuable services but was not successful in obtaining his transfer overseas before the cessation of hostilities. He was demobilised in February 1919. The Hill Welwyn.
Like every other soldier George would have been granted 28 days leave on his demobilisation and he would have used this time to apply to re-join the Police. He would have had to have undergone a Medical Examination by the Force Surgeon to ensure that he was still fit enough for Police duties. Having passed this, he would have been re-Appointed on the day following the date of the end of his leave period.
Re-joining The Police.
General Order 23 of 25th January 1919 listed 25 Police Officers who, having been released from H.M. Army, had been re-appointed to the Force. George was shown as: PC 303 Berry G.H. C Division at Watford from the 30th January 1919 on £2/8/0 per week. Each officer had to be formerly re-attested. The Superintendents concerned had to report to Headquarters the date and place of Attestation and before whom taken. The 1919 Electoral Roll records George Henry Berry as living at Gas Yard Cottages, Welwyn.
General Order 77 of the 24th March 1919 instructed George that he was being transferred from C Division at Watford to G Division at St. Albans from the 25th March 1919. Then General Order 164 of the 20th July 1919 instructed him that he was being transferred from G Division at St. Albans to E Division at Baldock on the 18th July 1919.
General Order 235 of the 4th December 1919 informed George that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/0/0 to £4/2/0 per week from the 1st December 1919.
The 1920 and Spring 1921 Electoral Rolls list George Henry Berry as living at 51, Bygrave Road, Baldock apparently lodging with an Elizabeth Wilson. The 1921 Autumn Electoral Roll shows him as living at 5, Bygrave Road, Baldock.
General Order 3 of the 5th January 1921 informed George that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 per week from the 1st December 1920.
On the 17th September 1921 George married Edith Clara Webb at All Saints Church, Hanley William, Worcestershire. Edith was born in 1888 in St. Johns, Worcester and grew up with her parents and siblings on farms in Worcestershire where her father was a Farm Bailiff or Manager. In the 1911 census she was visiting her sister at Upton Court Farm, Upton Tenbury, Herefordshire.
General Order 199 of the 10th December 1921 informed George that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/4/0 to £4/6/0 per week from the 1st December 1921.
The 1922 Spring Electoral Roll records George Henry Berry as living at 2, Icknield Way, Baldock.
Edith Clara Berry died on the 24th April 1922 at 2, Icknield Way, Baldock. Her death certificate records that she was aged 33 years and the wife of George Henry Berry a Police Constable. The cause of her death was accidently drowned in the bath at her home. The certificate was received from Francis Shillitoe, Coroner for Hitchin District, Inquest held 25th April 1922.
Published in the Gloucester Citizen on Wednesday 26th April 1922 under the headline Drowned In Bath With The Lid On: An extraordinary tragedy was investigated at Baldock, near Hitchin on Tuesday at the inquest on Mrs. Edith Berry, wife of Police Constable Berry, of the Hertfordshire Constabulary. who was found drowned in a bath at her home on Monday. It was stated that the lid of the bath, which was fixed to the wall by a hook and swivel, was down on the bath when the woman was recovered. She had been married only seven months. PC Berry said that after having slept for some hours after night duty, he went downstairs and found his wife fully dressed in the bath in about a foot of water. His wife was subject to attacks of nerves and giddiness. Dr. Watson said there was no suggestion of violence. The lid attachment was safe if left alone, but anyone falling into the bath would fling out an arm to save himself or herself, and thus bring down the lid. He was of opinion that the woman fainted and fell into the water. A verdict of accidental death from drowning was returned.
Transfer And A Different Role.
General Order 61 of the 16th May 1922 instructed George that on the 25th May 1922 he was being transferred from E Division at Baldock to D Division at Hemel Hempstead and to reside in lodgings and act as Chauffeur to the Superintendent.
General Order 169 of the 28th December 1922 informed George that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week from the 1st December 1922.
General Order 165 of the 20th September 1923 instructed George that on the 24th September 1923 he was being transferred from D Division at Hemel Hempstead to C Division at Croxley Green.
General Order 14 of the 16th January 1924 informed George that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week from the 1st December 1924.
The General Strike.
General Order 62 of the 4th May 1926 concerned the Emergency Regulations of 1926 and instructions for 50 Hertfordshire Police Officers, made up of three Inspectors, seven Sergeants and 40 Constables, to be on standby should the Secretary of State call upon the County Force to draft men elsewhere at short notice. These included officers from A,B,C, D and E Divisions. Orders for equipment and clothing would be issued if and when necessary, but the men were advised that they would require some sort of haversack. George was one of the Constables named in the list.
General Order 117 of 29th August 1926 concerned the Emergency Regulations 1926 and instructions for 50 Hertfordshire Police Officers to be on standby should the Secretary of State call upon the County Force to draft men elsewhere. The first 20 named would be required to proceed at 8 hours’ notice or less. These included officers from A,B,C and D Divisions and it would appear to qualify to be amongst the 20 you needed to have a motor bicycle available. George was not one of first the twenty named as he did not have a motor bicycle.
General Order 140 of 18th October 1926 declared: EMERGENCY REGULATIONS 1926. The following detachment of the Hertford County Constabulary is detailed for duty in the County of Derby as from 19th October 1926, inclusive: There then follows a list of one Inspector, three Sergeants and 47 Constables which included PC 303 Berry G.H. of C Division at Croxley Green. The detachment will proceed by nearest railway route to St Pancras, London Midland & Scottish Railway, reporting on the main departure platform at 2 p.m., when Inspector Digby will parade the party and call the roll. The detachment will proceed by the 2.25 p.m. train to Derby. On arrival at Derby, Inspector Digby will report to the representative of the Chief Constable of the Derby County Constabulary who will meet the train and provide omnibus transport to Ripley about 10 miles distant.
Dress: Greatcoats, cape, cloth jacket, 2nd cloth trousers, 1925 issue helmet, leggings, truncheons and handcuffs, woollen gloves, lamps, whistles and chains.
Divisional Superintendents will advance Railway fares if required and an account for same will be rendered to Headquarters Office for repayment. Inspector Digby will render a daily report direct to the Chief Constable’s Office each day, showing state of health of all members of the detachment and any matters of interest which may occur.
General Order 157 of 14th November 1926 THE EMERGENCY POWERS ACT, 1926. THE EMERGENCY REGULATIONS, 1926. COAL STRIKE: The Chief Constable is gratified to learn that the services of the detachment of the Hertford County Constabulary added temporarily to the Derby County Constabulary, were satisfactory, and he has much pleasure in publishing the following extract from a letter received from the Chief Constable of Derbyshire, under date 11th November 1926: Begins: “The detachment has done very good work and I will be grateful if you will be kind enough to convey to them my warm thanks for their services. I may say that Inspector Digby did very good work indeed and was of great assistance to my Ilkeston Superintendent. Will you also give him my personal thanks”. Ends.
If this letter from the Derbyshire Chief Constable seems a bit luke warm it transpires 10 of the Hertfordshire Constables suffered food poisoning after eating food which was supplied to them on behalf of the Derbyshire Police Authority. The Hertfordshire Force Surgeon said that their illness should be classed as an injury on duty and the Chief Constable agreed and said no one should suffer any stoppages from their pay. George was not one of those who suffered from the food poisoning.
Qualification To Sergeant.
General Order 12 of 19th January 1927 announced the results of the Promotion Examination for Constable to Sergeant held on the 18th December 1926. George was one of 23 successful candidates although there is no record of him being promoted.
The 1930 Electoral Roll records George Henry Berry as living at 309, New Road, Rickmansworth apparently lodging with a Mable and Henry James.
George married Alice Maud Ruth Tomlin (or Tomalin) in 1930 at Watford. They did not have any children.
From the following newspaper article, it is clear that George was transferred to E Division at Walkern, possibly after his marriage.
Published on the 17th March 1939 in the Hertford Mercury and Reformer under the headline Wedding Car’s Insurance, Walkern Garage Owner Summoned: The stopping of a car which had been used for a wedding at 3 a.m. on January 22 at Hertford by the Police led to the appearance at the Hertford Borough Court yesterday (Thursday) of Richard Lowe of The Goose, Moore Green, Ardeley who was summoned for driving an uninsured motorcar and Charles W. Sworder, of The Garage Walkern, was summoned for permitting the use of the car. Lowe pleaded guilty and Sworder not guilty. PC F.S. Erridge Hertford said that he stopped Lowe at 3.10 a.m. at Hertford and asked him to produce his certificate of insurance which he was unable to do. PC George Berry, Walkern, said that on January 25 he saw Sworder, when he produced a certificate. He told Sworder the policy did not appear to cover Lowe. The Constable said he later saw Sworder, when he said, “I paid him (Lowe) to do a job for me, a wedding job.” He then saw Lowe, cautioned him and he made a statement. Lowe said he had a car to do a wedding job at Ardeley and after the wedding drove to London. He alleged that Sworder “gave him 2/6 for services rendered as he knew the bridegroom would pay me for my trouble.” Sworder, on oath, said he asked Lowe to do a job for him as he had another job, and paid him 2/6. After retiring the Mayor, Councillor G.C. Mansfield, said the Bench had decided to fine Lowe 10/- and costs (2/6), but the case against Sworder would be dismissed. Lowe’s licence would not be suspended.
The 1939 Register lists Police Constable George Henry and Alice Maud Ruth Berry as living at the Police House, High Street, Walkern.
The Hertfordshire Police Historical Society has a clipping from an unknown newspaper that is believed to have been published on the 30th June 1951 which announces George’s retirement under the headline 37 Years A Policeman: Retiring on Saturday after a record 37 ½ years, Police Constable George Berry of Walkern, Herts. Is believed to be Britain’s longest serving policeman. For the past twenty – the remainder is missing but it is believed to have read that he had served at Walkern.
George Henry Berry died on the 10th August 1976 at Stevenage.